It’s no secret that Medicare is not the most straightforward subject to master. There are a lot of complex rules and important deadlines to be aware of. We are here to give you some important tips on how to successfully navigate the Medicare system.
If you’re approaching your 65th birthday or planning to change Medicare plans during this year’s Annual Enrollment Period, you’ll want to begin your research sooner rather than later. If you’re running low on time, here’s a quick list of the most common pitfalls to avoid.
1. Assuming you’ll be automatically enrolled
While most Americans will become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65, you will not be automatically enrolled unless you are already receiving social security benefits. If you won’t have qualifying coverage when you turn 65, you need to fill out an application to sign up for Medicare within your 7-month Initial Eligibility Period. You could face lifelong penalties on your Medicare Part B (and Part D) premiums if you neglect to do so.
2. Neglecting to enroll in a Medicare drug plan during your IEP
If you’re not currently taking any medications, you may be tempted to forego purchasing a Part D (prescription drug) plan. This instinct is understandable; why would you want to pay for coverage you don’t yet need? Unfortunately, neglecting to enroll for this coverage when you first enroll for Medicare will result in permanent penalties on your premiums if–or more likely, when– you do decide to enroll at a later date.
3. Falling into a coverage gap
While Original Medicare (Parts A & B) will cover most of the essential healthcare costs you can expect to incur in this next phase of your life, many people will opt to purchase a Medicare Supplement (or Medigap) plan in order to address common gaps in coverage. For example, you might be surprised to learn that your Medicare coverage will not follow you outside of the United States. There are, however, some Medigap plans that will cover healthcare costs accrued while abroad. Similarly, a Medigap policy could be a wise choice if you anticipate having a lot of out-of-pocket costs. These plans will cover your coinsurance, copayments, or deductibles for Medicare-covered services.
4. Assuming you have to keep the same coverage forever
Enrolling in a Medicare plan is not a lifelong commitment. The plan that works for you when you first enroll might not be the best fit further down the road. If you find that your current plan isn’t providing you with the coverage you need, you have one opportunity each year to change plans or purchase new coverage. It is called the Annual Enrollment Period, and it typically takes place between October 15th and December 7th. You can learn more about what is possible, and prepare to make smart healthcare decisions at this time, by reading our AEP Preparation Checklist.
5. Assuming that one coverage solution fits all
Another mistake that newcomers to Medicare often make is to purchase the same plan as a friend or loved one simply because that person is happy with their coverage. While taking recommendations from those you trust is a good strategy when trying a new restaurant, when it comes to healthcare coverage, your needs probably won’t match up to those of your spouse, your sibling, or your best friend. You should get personalized advice based on your specific needs.